Irish Premier League
Linfield Scorer :
Kurtis Byrne 79'.
Linfield Yellow Cards :
Achille Campion, Roy Carroll
Carrick Rangers Yellow Card :
Linfield Team :
Roy Carroll (GK), Mark Haughey ©, Jimmy Callacher, Josh Robinson, Matthew Clarke, Stephen Lowry, Robert Garrett. Kirk Millar (Ryan Strain 78’), Kurtis Byrne, Andy Waterworth (Niall Quinn 85’), Achille Campion
Linfield Subs not used :
Brandon Adams, Stephen Fallon, Andrew Mitchell
Carrick Rangers Team :
Harry Doherty © (GK), Aaron Smyth, Mark Edgar, Denver Gage, Lee Chapman, Gavin Taggart ©, Eamon McAllister, Chris Morrow (Ben Roy 82'), Michael Smith (Ryan Nimick 71’), Andrew Mooney, Danny Magill
Carrick Rangers Subs not used :
Michael McKenna, Sean Green, Liam Hassin
After kicking off the year with an emphatic win over Glebe Rangers in the Irish Cup on Saturday, Linfield returned to league action tonight with a trip to Carrickfergus for the rearranged fixture with Carrick Rangers after the match was postponed last month due to the snow.
Conditions were challenging for both teams. The temperature was low as expected, but it was the condition of the pitch that ensured we would be seeing no ‘tiki-taka’ football. Instead, it forced a physical encounter between the sides. The pitch was badly cut up in areas, seemingly struggling from the poor winter weather and the fact it hosted 120 minutes of football at the weekend between Carrick and Glenavon didn’t do it any favours.
Kirk Millar was rewarded for his dazzling performance at the weekend with a start. New signings Kurtis Byrne and Achille Campion also received starting berths following impressive debuts on Saturday in a bid for more match fitness. Aaron Burns and skipper Jamie Mulgrew missed out through injury, whilst Mark Stafford was serving a one-match suspension.
The Blues went close with a well-worked move as the new signings combined, Campion chesting the ball down for Kurtis Byrne to volley. He hit it well but ‘Gers goalkeeper Harry Doherty produced a great save to tip it around the post for a corner.
The former St.Pats man went close again on the half-hour mark as Haughey checked inside before slipping in Byrne whose low shot beat the ‘keeper but not Carrick’s Danny Magill as he got back onto the line to clear.
The final chance of a fairly uneventful first half fell the way of the hosts as Chris Morrow’s free-kick found its way through to the unmarked Denver Gage at the back post. The big defender took his time and tried to slot the ball beyond Carroll but the goalkeeper kept it out with his feet before hammering his defenders for their marking.
Half Time: Carrick Rangers 0 – 0 Linfield
Roy Carroll miskicked a clearance early in the second half and it went straight to the feet of Carrick striker Andrew Mooney but the goalkeeper made amends with a well-timed tackle.
Linfield then went close twice in quick succession from corners. Firstly, Mark Haughey glanced a header into the side netting from Matthew Clarke’s corner, before Josh Robinson found space but headed just wide of the post with Linfield pressing for the opener.
The impressive Achille Campion was next to go close after being slipped in by Robert Garrett but his low shot was kept out by the feet of Doherty who was also impressing in goal for the hosts.
The breakthrough finally arrived on 79 minutes. Minutes before the goal, David Healy brought on 18 year-old striker Ryan Strain as Linfield moved to a 4-2-4 formation with four strikers on the pitch, and indeed it was Strain who made the difference with a mazy run down the left before hanging the ball up at the back post for Kurtis Byrne to volley home his first Linfield goal at the back post.
David Healy’s tactical tweek paid dividends when it looked like it wouldn’t be Linfield’s night and once the Blues went ahead, Niall Quinn came on for Waterworth as the Blues reverted to the traditional 4-4-2. Quinn, incidentally, almost made it two in the closing minutes with a curling free-kick which whistled just past the far post amidst a swirling wind. Although it was far from pretty, Linfield found a way to win in testing conditions for a valuable three points.
The win sees Linfield go up a place in the table to fourth above Cliftonville as the Blues aim to build on their two wins from as many games in 2018 to continue climbing the Danske Bank Premiership League table, with a trip to Warrenpoint Town this coming Saturday next on the agenda.
Full Time: Carrick Rangers 0 – 1 Linfield